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Industrial Decision Support Systems

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  1. Who is KnarrTek? KnarrTek provides the software and services to assist manufacturers and industrial distributors to transition from using paper forms and Excel spreadsheets to track their manufacturing operations to enabling these organizations to use  Decision Support Systems (DSSs) to provide everyone in the organization with the information they need, when they need it, to efficiently do their jobs.

  2. What is a Decision Support System? Wikipedia defines a Decision Support System (DSS) as an information system that supports business or organizational decision-making activities. DSSs serve the management, operations and planning levels of an organization (usually mid and higher management) and help people make decisions about problems that may be rapidly changing and not easily specified in advance - i.e. unstructured and semi-structured decision problems. Decision support systems can be either fully computerized or human-powered, or a combination of both.

  3. What Software does KnarrTek use for its DSS implementations? KnarrTek uses the BellHawk® real-time work-in-process, job and materials tracking software platform together with the the MilramX decision support and automated information exchange software platform.

  4. Does KnarrTek provide standard software packages for real-time data capture and operations tracking? KnarrTek provides three levels of standard Job and Materials tracking software. It also provides custom WIPtracker solutions based on using a variety of modules from the BellHawk software platform.

  5. Who are KnarrTek's Clients? KnarrTek's clients include manufacturers, industrial distributors, food and pharmaceutical processors, defense, construction, repair, and engineering organizations, as well as many other industrial organizations.

  6. How does KnarrTek Deliver its Software? KnarrTek provides its standard products on a software-as-a-service subscription basis on Windows Servers managed by KnarrTek at secure data centers in the USA. KnarrTek also rents licenses to use these standard products, as well as its WIPTracker custom solutions, for installation on each client's own computers.

  7. What does the KnarrTek software track? It tracks the receipt and put-away of raw materials, their transformation into intermediate materials and then finished products through a sequence of manufacturing or processing operations. In doing this, the KnarrTek DSS may track the progress of a work-order for a customer job as it progresses from operation to operation . It may also track work-in-process materials as they move from work-center to work-center and are transformed from raw materials into finished products. This may include tracking work-in-process materials as they are tested, reworked and possibly scrapped as well as the picking, packing, labeling, and shipping of finished products to customers.

  8. How does KnarrTek carry out Implementation Projects? KnarrTek projects typically start with the implementation of a Pilot installation on a BellHawk Online server managed by KnarrTek. The starting point is typically a standard tracking system but may also be a WIPTracker custom grouping of BellHawk features. The client then tests the software and the staff of KnarrTek makes needed adjustments according to the needs of the client in an incremental Agile process  until the system meets the tracking need of the client. In parallel with this interfaces to other systems are implemented and alerts and other DSS support added until the system meets the needs of the client. There is no charge for using the KnarrTek DSS  software until the resultant system is deployed operationally. Clients are expected, however, to incrementally pay for the support services they need during the Pilot test phase.

  9. Who has used the KnarrTek software? A wide range of industrial organizations, including machine shops, rolled materials converters, plastic injection molders, fabricators of building components, engineering and defense contractors, contract manufacturers and other assemblers of electromechanical systems, as well as repair, refurbishing and recycling organizations. In addition this software has been used by a range of organizations that need to comply with FDA regulations including food and pharmaceutical processors, medical device and supplies manufacturers, and makers of veterinary products and natural supplements.

  10. Who is the target audience for the BellHawk Online services? BellHawk Online is primarily used for Pilot implementations. Smaller organizations, without an in-house IT department, may choose to keep using BellHawk Online, where they have ready access to BellHawk IT support. Larger organizations will typically deploy the Pilot implementation, when working, to their own servers in their own data center, where they have full control over the software.

  11. What is the BellHawk software?  The BellHawk software platform was developed by Dr. Peter Green of Milramco LLC, in collaboration with other partners, to provide a software platform to enable manufacturing and industrial distribution organizations to rapidly implement customized work-in-process, job and materials tracking systems. KnarrTek Inc. is the sales and support organization for this software.

  12. What is the MilramX software? The MilramX software is a real-time automated information exchange software platform, which was developed by Dr. Peter Green of Milramco in collaboration with a number of partners, as a way to cut the cost and speed the development time for implementing automated information integration systems. Subsequently features were added to enable MilramX to function as the alerting layer of a decision Support System. KnarrTek Inc. is the sales and support organization for this software.

  13. Who owns the intellectual property rights to the BellHawk and MilramX software? They are owned by Milramco LLC, which is owned the same management team as KnarrTek. They are in a separate company for legal and tax reasons.

  14. What is the typical cost savings from using the KnarrTek software? Typically clients save the equivalent of the cost of between one and three people at an average loaded labor cost of $5,000 per month per person by switching from using paper forms and manual keyboard data entry to using a real-time decision support system.

  15. What other benefits does using a KnarrTek DSS  have? This software enables clients to ensure that they get customer orders out on time, prevent operational mistakes, and to know the labor and materials cost of each job. In addition it captures materials traceability history data.

  16. Does KnarrTek sell its software and services directly or does it work through reseller partners? Both. KnarrTek works directly with the IT support staff of larger clients but refers smaller clients to one of its partners, who can provide the equipment and supplies, as well as on-site IT support that these organizations typically need.

  17. What about Support Services? KnarrTek and its partners offer a full range of supporting services but enable clients to save money by doing as much of the implementation work themselves as they have the capability to do.

  18. What about barcode scanners and printers and mobile devices? BellHawk  works with a wide range of Android based mobile devices, as well as with a wide range of 1D and 2D barcode scanners and barcode label printers. These are readily available from our partners or a wide range of other suppliers over the Internet.

  19. What about preprinted rolls of license-plate number barcodes, as well as rack and floor stand barcode labels? We can make recommendations as to suppliers that can make these products to your specifications at an affordable price.

  20. Should we use BellHawk Online or rent/purchase BellHawk and MilramX for installation on our own Windows Server? If you  are a small or medium sized organization without an in-house IT department then you should definitely use BellHawk Online. If you have an IT department and the need to integrate many custom reports into BellHawk, or closely integrate the tracking software with other on-site systems,  or have specific IT requirements, such as for security, then you should consider renting or purchasing licenses to use the  software  for installation on your own Windows Server.  In either case, we usually recommend that clients start out by using our on-line shared hosting service in the Cloud to run their private BellHawk website and database.

  21. Do we save money by renting the KnarrTek DSS software rather than using it on servers managed by KnarrTek? KnarrTek provides a free shared hosting service, at a number of secure data centers, on which smaller manufacturers and distributors can run their version of the BellHawk software, to which they have purchased a subscription. This is limited to users with less than 1,000 active work orders or 10,000 active containers and serialized items being tracked to make sure that any one client does not "hog" the shared server and slow-down service for everyone else. Beyond this,  clients can either pay KnarrTek for the use of a dedicated managed server in the Cloud or provide their own Windows server.  In all cases the cost of the software subscription or rental is essentially the same.

  22. Do we save money by purchasing rather than renting licenses to use BellHawk? This depends. Purchasing a license to use BellHawk costs the same as 36 months of rental or on-line subscription costs but only includes one year of the software maintenance plan, which is included in subscriptions or rentals. For those organizations purchasing a license to use BellHawk and MilramX, on a one-time payment basis, this maintenance plan is available, after the first year, for 20% of the cost of licenses purchased.  Generally it makes sense to rent or subscribe to BellHawk unless there is just a one-time availability of a Capital Expense budget.

  23. We are a large organization with our own IT staff. We need sophisticated real-time operations tracking and management capabilities. Can we save time and money by purchasing a source-code license to use the BellHawk and MilramX software platforms as the basis of implementing our own decision Support System? Yes, you can purchase a source code license to use the BellHawk and MilramX  software platforms through KnarrTek or one of its partners.

  24. Can BellHawk Exchange Data with my ERP or Accounting System? BellHawk  can exchange data with other systems using Excel spreadsheets or comma delimited files. The MDEX automated data exchange interface provides a straight-forward method of exchanging data with BellHawk  from other systems located on computers in a plant or data center. For more sophisticated automated data exchange applications then KnarrTek's staff can work with experts in the various systems which need to exchange information to implement robust information integration solutions, based on the use of the MilramX software platform.

  25. Can BellHawk import data from my CAD system? BellHawk can import files in .CSV or Excel formats from a variety of CAD systems through the DEX interface. Alternately custom interfaces can be implemented using MlramX.

  26. If we start using BellHawk Online on a subscription basis, can we transition to running BellHawk  on our own Windows Server? Yes, each BellHawk Online client gets their own website and database that can easily be transitioned, in future, to use their own server.

  27. How reliable is the BellHawk Online Service? BellHawk Online is run at a secure data center in the USA which has a very high uptime. We also take precautions, such as taking nightly backups of each client's data and storing this in the Cloud so as to facilitate rapid disaster recovery. This is not suitable, however, for situations where automatic hot-swapping is required to ensure continuous, uninterrupted  operation of the system. In such cases, clients should install the KnarrTek DSS software in their own data center.

  28. What if the Internet goes down and we depend on BellHawk Online? This is always a risk factor, especially if the Internet is accessed over a cable strung on utility poles. But often, the same poles carry the electricity to the plant or warehouse. If a pole comes down or a tree falls over the wires both go out, and with it the operation of the plant. As a result, the risk has not been increased by using the Internet to manage plant operations.

  29. What if we want our BellHawk instance customized? This is a paid service provided by KnarrTek's technical staff and its partners. Except in simple cases, these customizations start with a design phase to clearly document the changes requested and to provide an accurate estimate of the cost

  30. What if we want to develop our own custom reports from the BellHawk data? We recommend using the DEX interface to automatically extract the needed data from the BellHawk database. Custom reports can then be created using tools such as Excel, Access, Crystal Reports, and SSRS using data from tables in the DEX database.

  31. Do you sell the needed equipment orsupplies? No. BellHawk works "out-of-the-box" with a wide-range of Android based mobile devices, as well as with Windows, IOS, and Unix based tablets and PCs. It also works with a wide range of barcode scanners and printers. These, along with needed supplies and custom barcode labels, can be ordered from our partners or simply purchased over the Internet. Please ask us for a recommendation.

  32. Do you make on-site sales calls? All client engagements start out remotely with the gathering of information over the Internet. If it is determined that an on-site visit by a member of KnarrTek's staff is needed to gather more information, in order to prepare a systems design and budgetary proposal, then these are carried out as a client-funded design phase. Alternately KnarrTek may refer the opportunity to a local partner who can make an on-site sales call. These days we find that we can save a lot of time and money by using on-line meeting technology. We often start by having a prospective user of BellHawk send us a written description of their tracking issues, along with photos and videos of their operation (under a non-disclosure agreement, if needed). From this we can quickly develop a proposal for a recommended solution to the prospective client's tracking problem, along with an estimated cost.

  33. Do you arrange for visits to other users of the BellHawk software so we can see it in operation? Regretfully no. Our clients are all way too busy running their own businesses to host site visits. Many also have health and security concerns about hosting visitors. We provide an extensive set of training materials on-line for prospective clients to educate themselves. Also, we find that clients  learn far more by participating in the implementation of a pilot system with their own data than they would though visits to another organization's plant or warehouse.

  34. Do you provide lists of References? No, we jealously guard our clients' privacy.  But, where appropriate, once a prospective user of our software has decided that BellHawk is an appropriate solution for them and is simply doing final due diligence, we can arrange a telephone call with an existing user of the KnarrTek software for an exchange of information.

  35. Do You Offer Free Trials of Your Software? No but we do offer the ability to setup and run a Pilot installation on BellHawk Online provided the client pays for all the needed support services to assist them to get the Pilot up and running.

  36. Do you provide demonstrations of your software with our data?  Generally no. Setting up this data is often time consuming, which is why recommend Pilot installations, so prospective clients can  test the system with their own data.

  37. Can we use KnarrTek's software to just track operations in one limited area of our facility or do we need to deploy it to the whole plant at the same time? We encourage our clients to start in one area, to solve an immediately pressing problem. Then clients can incrementally expand their use of BellHawk  to cover other areas as they gain experience with using the capabilities of BellHawk.

  38. Do I need to purchase a barcode printer to use BellHawk? No BellHawk prints its barcoded documents on an office printer and also uses pre-printed rolls of "license-plate" tracking barcodes to track containers of material.

  39. What if I need BellHawk  to print custom barcode labels on demand? We recommend using the BellHawk TAG software, running on a Windows Workstation in each facility, to ensure high speed printing on barcode label printers in that facility.

  40. What if I need to integrate with weighing scales? We recommend using the BellHawk  Weighing Scale Interface software running on a Windows PC to interface between a local weighing scale, connected to the PC,  and BellHawk running in the Cloud. This is available as part of a custom WIPTracker implementation and typically requires customization as each model of weighing scales have their own communications protocol.

  41. Do you support the use of RFID to track materials? Yes, our TAG software can encode combination barcode labels and RFID tags which can then be tracked by our RFID software. Typically we refer such projects to partners who are experts in supplying and setting up the RFID equipment.

  42. How easy is it to configure BellHawk to the specific needs of my organization? BellHawk uses a rules-based engine that incorporates industry best practices. Clients can set their own parameters to these rules (using Excel imports) but cannot change the underlying rules. These rules can, however, be customized by the staff of KnarrTek if needed.

  43. How do I contact an expert at KnarrTek for help with my work-in-process, job or materials tracking problem? Please click on the [Contact Us] button below and send us your contact information along with a description of the problem you are trying to solve. We will then set up an on-line meeting with one of our experts to see if we can help. If not, then we can often refer you to someone who can.

  44. Finally, if you are confused about what to call things, such as the difference between tracking work-in-process and WIP inventory tracking, please see our Materials Tracking Definitions page.


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